Critique Collective

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Tag: denver

Peter Yumi’s Process-based Collages Evoke Timely Technological Concerns

An aura of technological apprehension envelopes Peter Yumi’s process-heavy collages, an atmosphere of undulation that forms a tornado of imagery. The collages slip into a vacuum of illusory space with limits defined only by the syntax of Yumi’s rigidly predetermined, formulaic process, which would read as a specter of formalist painting if it didn’t act as a signifier for the cold effectiveness implicit in contemporary digital interactions. The collages also evince intuitive tropes as seen in the artist’s working materials from dilapidated selfies to gift-wrapped patterning.

The Denver based artist and former tiger handler for a Las Vegas magic show studied at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, and his work has been featured by the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver, Palm Springs Art Museum, Andenken Gallery, and various other venues throughout the United States. Yumi was also recently interviewed in Westword‘s 100 Colorado Creatives series. More images of Yumi’s work can be found on his website.

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Faces, collage, Peter Yumi, 2014


Paul Weiner:
How do you find imagery to use in your collages?

Peter Yumi:
Mostly, the materials are found. I collect junk walking around, and people give me a ton of magazines. I also go to estate sales and buy vintage Christmas wrapping paper. I admit it. I have a gift wrapping paper fetish. I started asking friends to pose for me for my newest work. I just send them a text and say, “hey can you send me some selfies?” and they do. The internet is a miracle. I own nearly every single issue of Playboy and decades and decades of National Geographic. I have also taken to collecting soda cans I find or consume on my own and crushing them with my car to use in my collages. I create most of the imagery in the collages on my own, though. I paint quite obsessively. I scan those paintings or photograph them, and they are eventually added to the collages.

ladiesinthehouse2

Ladies in the House, collage, Peter Yumi, 2014

Paul Weiner:
There are often figures embedded within your collages. Who are these figures, and what meaning do they bring to the work?

Peter Yumi:
Most of the images are of friends or of people from current events. Some are from my Playboy collection. I have been working on my artwork pretty intensely the past few years, and I have not been that social as a result, so I started going out to galleries and photographing people I know as well. Mainly, I wanted to have my work express this general feeling of being cut off from what makes us human, being creative and having the balance of being an individual and part of a community. Today, we have all sorts of gizmos like the internet and our smart phones to be part of a world wide global nervous system, but the payoff is to maintain that you have to give up some of the freedoms of being a free spirit. Everything this measured now. In the workplace, keystrokes and other behaviors are measured, but behaviors that can not be quantified are being forgotten: how well did my cashier at the grocery store make someones day? Those types of behaviors are becoming less and less important. We are losing individual expression at the cost of productivity, and that is really a shame. But, at the same time, I am fearful and know others often feel oppressed by our new technological world but love the rewards that it gives. So, the images are supposed to reflect that feeling of being human and being part of technology or the age of technology anxiety. The subject matter is something important to me because I know that I am not the only one who feels this sense of alienation and dehumanization.

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City, collage, Peter Yumi

Paul Weiner:
Tell us a little about your physical process for collage. What kinds of techniques are you using?

Peter Yumi:
I wrote three different versions to explain how I make these collages. Basically I paint a lot, and as a painter I am very expressive. I have always had a love of patterns and textiles and try to use those in the paintings. I try not to think. I have been a mediator for over twenty years, and that plays an important role in my process. If I start thinking things like “this is really good” or “this is really bad,” I just say to myself, in my head, “you’re thinking,” and I welcome myself back to painting, and I go back to painting. I have created all of these steps to keep as much of my neurotic self out of my process. Once I start making the final collage works, I have a much more methodical means of production.

The work involves a lengthy process of creating paintings and drawings that are scanned and catalogued by color, pattern, and subject matter for later use. Vintage wrapper paper and found photos or selfies and model photos are hole-punched and paper cut involving a process that allows for random cuts to limit the editorial choices. Each and every step of the process involves a set of rules in an attempt to leave the self out of the editorial process. Once the images have been prepped, they are scanned and catalogued. Later, the images are harvested for use in the creation of new images in Photoshop. They are worked through a process that again prohibits many editorial choices and leaves much to chance operations. Once that process is completed, the multiple images are printed out and cut apart using scissors, hole punchers, and circle cutters. They are then laid out on sheets of plexiglass, where they are in turn photographed or scanned. Then the process is again repeated 8, 13, or 21 times. The following rule is used to express the number of layers:

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Once the layering is completed, sanding of the finished object occurs. The collage is scanned and then processed in Photoshop using a 3% black layer with noise filter set at 348.21%. The images are then saved and sent to production using an HP5800 large-format printer.

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John Babcock, collage, Peter Yumi, 2014

Paul Weiner:
Where would you ideally like to see your artwork displayed? Does it fit in a traditional gallery or more of an alternative setting?

Peter Yumi:
I have been looking at joining a few co-op galleries here in Denver. I have spent the past five years or so wood shedding and really editing and working out my process, experimenting. I have been hesitant to show a lot of my work for that reason. I think of the process that writers go through, writing and rewriting and editing and reediting their work, is something that artists should embrace more. In the past, I would make work specifically for a group show, but now I have taken to creating an entire body of work that reads more like a delicious book of poems, and I have found that’s what it requires. I have shown my older work in a number of galleries, but for my newest work I want full control of what I am creating and the environment. I am essentially creating a space that is fully immersible with sound, light, and imagery, so it is important to me to be able to work with the rules that I have set up and do what the work demands. Right now, some of my prints might be ok with a group showing, but ideally they all need to been seen in a space together. They are brothers and sisters. It is my job, like any father, to raise them right and make sure that I provide a good place to nurture them. I work for them. They don’t work for me.

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Playboy, collage, Peter Yumi, 2014

Paul Weiner:
Do you see the images you use from Playboy or National Geographic as having appropriated meaning when taken out of their original context or are they only for aesthetic purposes?

Peter Yumi:
I like using the images from anywhere I can find them, really. Sometimes, I will see an image, and it will really hit me like a punch in the gut or it will make me laugh uncontrollably. I have really been doing my best to use images that are older than ten years old, mainly because I want my images to look very contemporary. I think many collage artists fall into the trap of making work with old images because they are copying collage styles from the past, but, when those artists made much of that collage originally, those were new images to them. It is important to me to see those distinctions between new and old images. If the image in the magazine is old, and I like it, though, I just treat it like any other image. In the end, it is about the result. I remember talking with a collage artists about how he used images from a book printed in the 1930s, just cut them up. He seemed proud of this, but to me, that’s what the work demands of a collage artist. You cut stuff up just like a painter mixes paint. A painter does not regret mixing pure blue with red to make purple, so a collage artist shouldn’t have those regrets either.

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Abe, collage, Peter Yumi

Paul Weiner:
How did you come up with the rules and equations for your process?

Peter Yumi:
John Cage has been an enormous influence on my work. I used to use I Ching to make my rules. Now, I make my rules through planning and observation of what other artists are doing. Sometimes, it will be a simple rule like only one image can be used in this collage, but you can have multiple copies of that same image. Sometimes, it will be no green. Other times, I will construct elaborate rules based off of language of some poets. Steve McCaffery does it so will with poetry, and I borrow a lot from the poets from that school. The equation I shared earlier is an expression of the Fibonacci sequence and it is used by artists all the time. Sometimes, they don’t even know they are using it with golden ratios. For my layering of images with glass, I decided upon the number of images layered at any given time based on that sequence. It goes like this: 1,1,2,3,5,8,13,21. I can have one image by itself, that image with a second image, or a third, but, if I add any additional layers of glass, there has to be five because 2+3=5. So on and so forth, it makes it fun to have those limits. All sorts of strange things start happening during that process, things that happen just because of those rules.

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Palace of Water, collage, Peter Yumi, 2014

Paul Weiner:
How may collages would you estimate that you create over the course of a month?

Peter Yumi:
That’s really hard to say. I usually make ten to twenty images a day or more. Then my final finished collage work, I make twenty or more a month. I have created all sorts of ways of automating how the work is shared online with programs like Hootsuite. I use other means to randomly generate tagging of images on social media. I take all that data that is generated from views to my page to create a spreadsheet so I can track the highest number of views and where those people are coming from. That is a project of its own. I am working on a program now that will output all that data visually on my website so people can, if anyone cares but me, see in a beautiful way what they are looking at exactly.

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Ladies, collage, Peter Yumi, 2014

Paul Weiner:
Tell us a little about the Denver art scene. What art venues do you go to when you want to see something interesting?

Peter Yumi:
I mostly go to galleries on Saturday or Sunday afternoon by myself and look at the work when no one is in the galleries. I will go to any space that has shows with friends or folks whose work I am interested in. I am very egalitarian in my choices of artwork. I honestly don’t know a lot about which galleries are currently trendy one or the ones people think are not that great. My thing is that I feel if people are making work that is thought provoking and downright interesting, I am interested in looking at it. I love artists, and anytime someone is making art, I don’t care who they are or who people think they are or aren’t. I feel joy that people are making artwork. We need more people making artwork in our world filled with strife and suffering, creating, getting out of their habitual thinking patterns, and being generally more alive. I just love artists and art.


Please view Peter Yumi’s website and “like” Critique Collective on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/critiquecollective.

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Focus on Denver: Evan Anderman’s Aerial Photography Provokes Discourse on American Land Politics

Terminus, Eleven Mile Reservoir, CO, 2013.

Terminus, Eleven Mile Reservoir, CO, 2013.

Evan Anderman’s documentation of agriculture and energy development on Colorado’s eastern plains mediates public fascination over aerial photography reminiscent of Google Earth with the energetic expression of shooting photography while piloting an airplane. From commentary on the ethics of human land usage to criticism of the almost imperial land distribution politics at work on the plains, there is no denying that Anderman’s work is dazzlingly, intellectually, perilously challenging as a call for serious discussion about limiting human impacts on the natural environment.

Anderman holds a PhD in geological engineering from the Colorado School of Mines and undergraduate degree in geological engineering from Princeton University. His photography has exhibited at a variety of venues in Colorado including the Denver Art Museum, Denver International Airport, Carmen Wiedenhoeft Gallery, and Robischon Gallery. Anderman’s work is also in the collection of the Denver Art Museum. His Imposition series will be on display in a solo exhibition at the Carmen Wiedenhoeft Gallery in Denver opening on September 12, 2014. Further images of Anderman’s work can be found at evananderman.com.


Paul Weiner:
How is your work as a photographer informed by your background in geology?

Evan Anderman:
I think that photography is all about seeing. You can’t take a good picture unless you can see what you want to take a picture of. As a geologist, I can’t help but see the land differently because once you know how something is made you see everything that went into making it. It’s funny to think back to when I was first taking geology courses at Princeton. I would come home on break and drive up to the mountains through the various roadcuts along I-70 and 285, and it was all right in front of me and suddenly all made sense. It’s lucky I didn’t get in an accident. Once you know what you’re looking at, the rocks tell you their story, and you can see it right there. There are certain characteristics that you look for in the different formations that tell you how they were formed. It’s not just the old igneous, metamorphic, and sedimentary labels that everyone learned in school. You really see the small details and how they form the land. To fly over the western United States in an airplane is better than any geology textbook. You get to see examples of practically every different geologic process laid out before you. I always thought I liked being a pilot because of the mechanical aspects of it, but I have only just lately realized that I fly because I want to look at all the geology around me. Taking pictures from the airplane made me realize that because now I have a way to show people exactly what I see when I look out the window of an airplane. My wife never flies with me because she doesn’t like to look out the window. Plus, she says that I chatter all the time because I am so excited.

Inky Patterns, San Juan Basin, NM, 2013

Inky Patterns, San Juan Basin, NM, 2013

Paul Weiner:
Tell us a little about your process for finding locations to take these high-altitude shots.

Evan Anderman:
I’m not really a planner. When I head out to take pictures, I like to be in the moment and just react to what is in front of me. The challenge for me is trying to find that interesting picture wherever I am and whatever the lighting conditions are. That extends to my aerial photography as well. In my airplane, generally I am not heading to a specific location, but rather a general area. Sometimes I don’t even make the decision until I’m in my airplane with the engine started. I’ve been known to change my route in the air, and that always works out for me. There’s an element of serendipity involved with finding locations, and that just fascinates me completely. I have been concentrating on the eastern plains of Colorado and have flown numerous flights over all seasons of the year. It’s interesting to me to see how things change from week to week and month to month. I don’t necessarily visit the exact same location multiple times, but I visit the same general area and see how it has changed. The farmers are always out doing their farming things, and I am always on the lookout for new things that are interesting to photograph.

I have also been trying to branch out a little and visit the various states around us: New Mexico, Wyoming, Kansas, Nebraska. It doesn’t really matter where I am. I generally can find something interesting to photograph.

Sometimes I do have a specific destination in mind that I want to explore. A couple of months ago I flew up to Gillette, Wyoming to look at the huge, open-pit coal mines up there. It is crazy how much land has been disturbed up there. I also flew over the Pinyon Canyon Army Maneuver site near La Junta; it is crazy how the landscape is covered with vehicle tracks for miles and miles.

It helps to be curious and to constantly be on the lookout for that interesting relationship that makes viewers curious about what they are looking at. Canadian photographer Edward Burtysnsky calls this the essential element, that one thing that has to be in the photograph. Once I see it, I have the technical foundation to be able to capture that element in an interesting way. I tell people that I’m looking for the needle in the haystack. That is what I am collecting.

That being said, there are times when the light is just terrible, so it may be a long time in between when I take a picture because I know the conditions will not allow a decent photograph to be made. You just have to accept the conditions and stay vigilant when they change.

Farmer Palette, Yuma, CO, 2014

Farmer Palette, Yuma, CO, 2014

Paul Weiner:
How large is your archive of photography for your Imposition project, and what considerations influence your selections of photography that you feel is worthy of displaying?

Evan Anderman:
I started working on the Imposition project last November when I flew down to Gallup, New Mexico to meet up with my brother. I flew over the San Juan basin, and the geology was just incredible. I couldn’t help but make photographs of it. This geology inspired the likes of Georgia O’Keefe and is what Eliot Porter called the Black Place. I knew that my Conformation series was winding down, and I was looking for the next thing. This one flight inspired this next series. I wanted to step back from the boldness of the feedlot pictures and concentrate more on the stunning beauty of the land. I also got very inspired by the New Topographics group as I started working on the series and was inspired to try to say something with my pictures as well. So, I decided to show the way that man has done some very curious things to the land in the activities that we need to support our society. Once I had this idea in mind, I started taking more flights and found photographs everywhere I looked.

All this is to say that I have taken thousands of pictures for this project so far and have literally hundreds to choose from for the upcoming exhibition. I really envision this work being presented at a large scale, roughly 4 feet by 5 feet, and the gallery can only handle a limited numbers of works that large. That’s where the hard work starts, narrowing it down to the eight or ten images that will be included in the show. In the first cut, I removed all the pictures that did not clearly illustrate the influence of man, and that reduced the group to about eighty. From that group of images, you could pick several different shows depending on what you wanted to concentrate on. I’ve had a lot of help from my assistant Valerie Santerli, a photographer herself and well-known Denver creative who also runs the Rule Gallery. I consider myself extremely lucky to be able to work with her! Slowly, we’ve whittled it down to sixteen images so far, but have to cut that number in half. That process has consisted of making test prints of the images and laying them all out next to each other to see how they talk to each other. You can see a picture of us doing this on my Facebook page. We move them around and start to get a flow, removing all of the ones that just aren’t working well with the others. It takes some time, and I find it hard to eliminate some because they have become a favorite for some reason or another. And then I complicate matters by going flying and taking more pictures, but they have to be truly special to be added into the mix. I had a great flight a couple of weeks ago and added 4 images to the grouping! That will happen as we move closer to the exhibition. There will be an ebb and flow as new images get added, and the weaker ones are eliminated.

I started working with Carmen Wiedenhoeft in January of this year, and it has been a really nice process. She is interested in my background and identifying the various influences on my photography. She is a very gentle, thoughtful, and intelligent person and has given me the space to make the show mine. This has been really eye-opening for me since I tend to get caught up in the moment and don’t necessarily think about the big picture of how I got where I am now. It is only in the last month or so that we have started thinking about the images themselves, and I am getting very excited about the possibilities with the show.

Turquoise Reservoir, Deer Trail, CO, 2014

Turquoise Reservoir, Deer Trail, CO, 2014

Paul Weiner:
You mentioned the influence of man on the environment. What effects have you observed that human land use have had on Colorado’s eastern plains?

Evan Anderman:
I reached a turning point last summer when I realized firsthand that man has a great influence on the environment in eastern Colorado. I was camping out at the Pawnee Buttes, about an hour north of Greeley on the border with Wyoming. I had taken a hike and shot the sunset around the buttes, and it was a gorgeous evening to be out of Denver. On the drive up there from the south, I noticed all the oil-field activity and found that curious. Additionally, there is a vast wind farm on the buttes to the north of Pawnee that has been there for a number of years. The interesting part came when the sun set. I noticed that the wind turbines each have a blinking red light to keep airplanes from running into them. They all seem to blink in unison across miles of the horizon. And each of the oil wells had a very bright flare from burning off the natural gas that is produced with the oil. It is just not profitable to collect the gas, so they burn it right at the well head. I felt surrounded by all of this light pollution. It made me realize that even in what I thought was a very remote location, it is not so remote anymore. It struck me, and I made a panorama of this to remind me of that moment. I printed it out about 12 feet long and hung it in my studio. You can also see the glow of light from the various cities around that area, and there are ten airplanes in the sky, something I hadn’t noticed when I took the picture.

I don’t know why it was such an epiphany to me to realize that there is basically nothing untouched on the eastern plains. I guess it was a surprise because it is such a vast area, but anyway I’ve realized on all my various flights out there that every square inch has been used in some way.

Obviously agriculture is the predominant use, the cultivation and irrigation associated with farming. Those areas that are not conducive to cultivation are dedicated to grazing of livestock, the sand hills where I guess the soil is just too permeable to hold water or there isn’t water available. I’ve spent a lot of time on Google Maps looking at the satellite photo function. It’s interesting to see where the circles are from the pivot irrigation systems along the Platte and Arkansas rivers and their tributaries. The geology is largely responsible for that. But there’s also an interesting cluster in the northeast corner of the state between Wray and Yuma where the Ogallala Aquifer is. They seem to be irrigating the sand hills. The water must be so readily available that they can’t resist irrigating even though the soil is not the best. Where there’s not water to irrigate with, there is dry land farming, seen on the satellite photos as rectangles rather than circles. I think it covers a larger area of the state than the irrigated land.

Where there is grazing, there are also feedlots, and many of those are so big that they are visible on the satellite photos as well. There’s something about flying over a feedlot, the unnatural jet-black color of the soil that the animals walk on. It just can’t be good for any of us, the cows or humans. I have spent some time studying the photos I made of the various feedlots in northeastern Colorado because I find it fascinating. It is industrial architecture at a large scale. I’ve never been emboldened to talk to one of the feedlots to figure exactly what is happening, so that remains a mystery to me.

Finally, the energy industry has been busy with their various activities. There are a couple of new wind farms, and the oil industry has been very busy in Weld County.

Cultivation Boundaries, High Plains, CO, 2013

Cultivation Boundaries, High Plains, CO, 2013

Paul Weiner:
Seeing these photos of land usage seems to suggest a conversation on environmental politics. Do you find your work to have any inherent political undertones regarding land use and regulation or is the work more of a documentary than a political statement?

Evan Anderman:
I’m glad that you think my photographs would spark a conversation on environmental politics. That is the whole point of what I want to do with my work. I want to show you the beauty in these things and hopefully spark your interest to learn more about these parts of our society. But it is a complex conversation, and I do not have the background to make any conclusions about what is happening in my photographs. I leave that for the experts. I just want to start the conversation.

Drainage Layers, Badger Creek, CO, 2013

Drainage Layers, Badger Creek, CO, 2013

Paul Weiner:
A common trend in contemporary art is the intertwining of science and aesthetics. What is the ideal forum for your work to be displayed in? Would you rather see your work in a museum of science or art?

Evan Anderman:
I would like for my work to be seen in as broad a range of venues as possible, and I would love to hear the conversation that is started in each. I think that the art museum community would have a different take on my images than the science museum community. I look forward to having those conversations and hearing what people think.

Wanderings, Anton, CO, 2013.

Wanderings, Anton, CO, 2013.

Paul Weiner:
Aesthetically, what are a couple of your favorite geological or man-made structures to photograph?

Evan Anderman:
I love to photograph anything geologic, but I guess I am most fascinated by rivers and the forms they create as they drain the land. They are interesting at just about any scale, small or large. I also like to photograph icebergs and glaciers. I have traveled to both Antarctica and the Arctic and would go back to either in a heartbeat. They are surprisingly hard to photograph well, but you get to see some incredible shapes and forms as the ice reflects the light. I should admit that I have actually gotten bored of photographing icebergs on some of these cruises I’ve been on, especially in Greenland where I was distracted by the stunning geology in the Scoresby Sund Fjord complex on the east coast. Rodfjord was especially interesting. It looked like Ayers Rock rising out of the water. It was just incredible with the icebergs floating around in front of it. Now I really want to go back there as well.

Leftover Marks, Flagler, CO, 2014

Leftover Marks, Flagler, CO, 2014

Paul Weiner:
What are some of the technical challenges you’ve found when shooting from an airplane?

Evan Anderman:
It is hard shooting from the airplane because it is moving fast, and I don’t always have time to get the picture that I want. Just to be clear, I only photograph when I have the autopilot flying the airplane so I can divert my attention out the window. Obviously, my priority is to fly the airplane, and I keep an ear open to hear if there is anything unusual happening with the airplane. It generally lets you know. When I first started shooting from the plane, I used a 24-70 zooms lens, and that was difficult because it covers such a wide angle of view. I always shoot with a very high shutter speed and almost wide open aperture. You don’t need a lot of depth of field, but you want to minimize any effects from the motion. I moved on to a 70-200 lens to isolate the various elements that I would see on my flights. Lately, I’ve been shooting with an 80-400 lens, and I really love having all that range to get exactly the picture I want. It was a great investment.

Oval Drive, Beebe Draw, CO, 2014

Oval Drive, Beebe Draw, CO, 2014

Paul Weiner:
Tell us a little about the Denver art scene. What are a few of your favorite galleries and artists to see in Denver?

Evan Anderman:
The Denver art scene is definitely up-and-coming, and there are a lot of exciting things happening. I was part of a group of people that helped convince the director of the Denver Art Museum to form a separate photography department in 2007. I was on the international search committee that hired the curator Eric Paddock, and he is celebrating his sixth anniversary this summer. The Denver Art Museum has a fairly new director, Christoph Heinrich, who has done wonders to really activate the museum, landing the Yves Saint Laurent show a couple of years ago and the Cartier show that will be opening this November. Denver is the only North American location for these shows. The Museum of Contemporary Art is a nice counterpoint to the art museum, under the very able leadership of Adam Lerner. We also have the Clyfford Still Museum, the Vance Kirkland Museum, and the Redline Art Center. All of these are located in downtown Denver.

As for the gallery scene, we have many different art districts in the city that provide lots of opportunities for artists to get their work in front of the public. My studio is located in Denver’s Art District on Santa Fe, and it has a very busy First Friday Art Walk. The Golden Triangle, Cherry Creek North, RiNo (for River North), and Highlands are some of the others.

I’ll just mention two specific galleries here. First, I am very excited that the Carmen Wiedenhoeft Gallery in RiNo will be having my first solo exhibition of my Imposition series opening September 12th. Also, my assistant Valerie Santerli has recently reopened the new Rule Gallery, and I have high hopes for the success of that gallery.


Please view Evan Anderman’s website and “like” Critique Collective on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/critiquecollective.

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5 Affordable Cities for Emerging Artists

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The art world can be terrifying for young artists, especially with the rising price tags on living in New York City or Los Angeles today. Fresh out of school with a ton of ideas and debt, you might be wondering where you can move to get your career rolling without breaking the bank.
Find your respite in an affordable city with a blossoming art culture so you can spend your money on making art, not living in a glorified janitor’s closet with a microwave.

Philadelphia, PA
While living in a major city on the East Coast is always going to be expensive, Philadelphia is much cheaper than many of its neighbors and a short ride to New York City, Boston, and Washington, D.C. for openings, museums, studio visits, and collectors. Featuring the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Institute of Contemporary Art, Rodin Museum, and too many galleries and colleges to count, Philly is becoming a thriving cultural center primed for young artists. With one of the largest populations in the United States, a strong public transportation system, and cheesesteak to die for who could say no to the City of Brotherly Love?

Denver, CO
Filled with hip museums and galleries, the art scene in Denver is surging into prominence. The new Clyfford Still Museum is practically a Mecca for abstract painters. The scene is heavily involved with local artists, from exhibitions at the Museum of Contemporary Art to the way Redline is nurturing talent and granting opportunities to emerging artists. Between Untitled art programs at the Denver Art Museum, First Fridays at tons of galleries in multiple arts districts, the new Kirkland Museum, and the Biennial of the Americas, Denver is a rising star for young visual artists. With Boulder not far away, additional opportunities abound. Boasting a 7% unemployment rate and a relatively low cost of living, the state famous for skiing and legalizing weed will be a popular art scene in the near future. Critique Collective is currently working on a series of interviews with Denver artists, galleries, and curators. Interested parties should submit their work at https://critiquecollective.com/submissions/.

Miami, FL
You want to move to the beach, huh? Art Basel Miami Beach made Miami quite the destination this winter, but Miami’s consistent growth as an art scene has extended for decades. While Art Basel displayed the luxe and glamour of Miami with the rise of the Pérez Art Museum Miami, growing art districts are the real future of this city. The Wynwood Arts District is full to the brim with galleries, studios, installations, and culture while North Miami includes the MOCA NoMI. Indeed, Miami is sprouting residencies for visual artists at Cannonball, Fountainhead, LegalArt, and Inkhub. While you might not run into Kim Kardashian at Art Basel everyday, you will find yourself immersed in a rising art community in Miami.

Santa Fe, NM
Historically a hidden art jewel in the Southwest, Santa Fe is famous for Georgia O’Keeffe, Western Art, and green chile. With many Americans crossing over from the Northeast to the Southwest, Santa Fe is a growing force to be reckoned with in the art world. With multiple museums (including the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum) and a massive influx of tourists who come for the culture and weather, Santa Fe is a nice place to find collectors despite its small city demeanor. Santa Fe artists can access Albuquerque, Dallas, Denver, and Phoenix in a few hours. Come for the art scene and stay for the sun and Mexican food.

Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN
While you might freeze your nostrils closed, living in the twin cities is a viable option for artists seeking to escape the hustle and bustle of many major art centers. Offering the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, and a multitude of colleges, Minneapolis isn’t a bad place for young creatives to settle down. The Northeast Minneapolis Arts District includes over a dozen galleries, as well as studios, shops, theatre, and music. With a history as a cultural center, Minneapolis is an attractive location for emerging artists who are looking to break into a small yet respectable art scene.

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Rasdjarmrearnsook’s Two Planets Series Astounds

The perfect appetizer for the Denver Art Museum’s Passport to Paris exhibition is hidden in a dark corner on the museum’s fourth floor. Araya Rasdjarmrearnsook’s Two Planets series illustrates perception as a function of social conditioning and challenges the notion that art viewers must be properly cultured to understand a master painting’s meaning. Rasdjarmrearnsook introduces small groups of Thai villagers to reproductions of Western master paintings such as Jean-François Millet’s The Gleaners. As the group interprets Millet’s The Gleaners by finding aspects of its own culture immersed in the painting, Rasdjarmrearnsook exposes how the struggle of every viewer to find meaning in a master painting results in a valuable point of view.

Facing away from the camera, the Thai villagers explain that they can’t comprehend the artistic intent within the Millet painting in front of them. Are the gleaners “digging for bugs” or harvesting rice? And where are the elephants used for field labor? The villagers are candid as they repetitively claim not to know anything at all. But they know as much as we do. The way they struggle with the painting and attribute personal meaning to it is how every art appreciator should.

Define the forms. Apply your own life experiences to the work. Develop an interpretation, whether narrative or conceptual. Paintings are masterworks because they invite varied interpretations, which is exactly why Passport to Paris visitors should experience the enlightenment of Two Planets first.

Rasdjarmrearnsook’s work is a masterpiece itself because of its ability to inspire imagination. I found myself voyaging into an introspective space for nearly half an hour as English translations of befuddled Thai conversations rolled across the bottom of the screen. The sound of birds and wilderness hearkened back to my childhood while camping in the Rocky Mountains and discussing life’s intricacies with my family over card games and an open fire. The humid and growing landscape brought about a crescendo of nostalgia, hope, and satisfaction for a fleeting moment.  How is my perception formed? What does this painting mean given my past experiences? Do I really know anything? I was entranced. Illuminated. Inspired.

“It’s just a bunch of women talking in another language,” muttered another museum goer who peeked in for just a second.

And then it was gone.

Have fun seeing the French masters in the Denver Art Museum, and take the time to appreciate the covert contemporary master on the fourth floor.

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Beautiful Figurative Paintings and Conceptual Masterpieces by Pablo Mercado

Pablo Mercado is a Spanish artist living in Berlin who holds a Masters in Art, Creation, and Research from the Universidad Complutense de Madrid and BFA from the Universidad de Bellas Artes de Sevilla. In 2013, his artwork has exhibited in the Freies Museum Berlin, Säulensaal des Berliner Rotes Rathaus, and Museo Arte Contemporáneo (MAC) in A Coruña, Spain. Pablo Mercado has also exhibited in various galleries throughout Germany and Spain. His artwork is available online at http://www.pablomercado.es.

lomo3

lomo1

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Paul Weiner:
Do you think that it is more important for artwork to be conceptually strong or aesthetically strong?

Pablo Mercado:
That is an interesting question, which I have often discussed with artist friends. I think we should find a balance between the two ideas, but, for me, the aesthetic is very important to communicate with the spectator. In a world saturated with information, it is important to draw the spectator’s attention to tell them something. You have to establish a dialogue with the spectator, and the first step is to say “hello” with a scream. Well, that scream, to me, is the aesthetics. However, if there is not a strong concept behind it, the conversation between the work and the spectator becomes trivial and superficial.

photobooth

recalldrawing

recall painting

Paul Weiner:
I definitely agree with your idea about saying “hello” with a scream. Do you think the same kind of “hello” can also be produced through conceptual shock? What if artwork is so erotic or violent that it attracts attention?

Pablo Mercado:
I think that conceptual shock is a part of the conversation. It is deeper than that. Personally, I do not like erotic or violent art when it is used just to attract attention and not because it is necessary for the concept. I find it superficial, or maybe too easy. I prefer a more subtle way to do it, something a little bit more cryptic that makes the spectator question himself.

Paul Weiner:
Do you find exhibiting in Germany to be different from exhibiting in Spain? If yes, how?

Pablo Mercado:
I have only shown in two German cities, Leipzig and Berlin. But, essentially, I think the public has no boundaries. We can talk about different audiences, but not because of their nationality. In Berlin, there is a great interest for art and especially in the openings.

Paul Weiner:
Describe your interest in the human memory.

Pablo Mercado:
Three years ago, when I moved to Berlin, I became interested in the aura of melancholy that surrounds this city, as well as the taste for the past with flea markets, vintage fashions, and analog technology. This idea that previous times were better is a postmodern characteristic that has always interested me very much. However, the human brain is full of defense mechanisms that make it impossible to give a true picture of the past. The brain interprets and selectively forgets memories to survive. I am very interested all these mechanisms and the idea of selecting fragments that retain and others that are hidden somewhere.

substitution

Substitution

substitution1

Substitution

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Substitution

Paul Weiner:
Interesting. Could you explain or define a few of these mechanisms or processes for memory?

Pablo Mercado:
I have several works based on these mechanisms, for example, Encoding, Recall, and Substitution. The human brain has two mechanisms of defense against trauma or negative memories. These mechanisms are suppression and substitution. Suppression interrupts the recovery of memories, and substitution replaces unpleasant events with others that are more enjoyable.

In Substitution, I started from two puzzles based on two well-known works in art history. One traumatic work was Five Deaths from the series Death and Disaster by Andy Warhol, and the other was A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte by Georges Seurat.

I deleted traumatic parts from Warhol’s image and inserted fragments of Seurat’s work. Thereby, the recumbent bodies crushed by the car are replaced by reclining figures and the river of the Grande Jatte replaces the trail of blood. However, because the pieces of the puzzles are not the same size, I cut and modified both until they fit properly. The result is imperfect, full of little mistakes that come with works of the naked eye, but with deeper observation it clearly shows errors in the system.

Encoding

Encoding

Encoding

Encoding

Encoding

Encoding

Paul Weiner:
Tell us about your project, Encoding, and how you came to the idea of creating a sculpture to represent the process of creating memories.

Pablo Mercado:
Encoding is the brain’s ability to transform information into items that can be stored and recovered during the evocation process.

The memory of a complete experience consists of fragments of memories that are stored in different regions of the brain. Thanks to the hippocampus, which recomposes stored memories, these pieces of information are reunited from disparate parts.

In this recovery process, the brain reinterprets and modifies the memory, so the more times something is remembered, the difference between the original memory and the current memory becomes greater.

This series of works refers to the process of recovery and how the past may not be exactly as we remember it. That is, our idyllic conception of the past is unreliable.

In this installation, as in other examples of my previous work, I started with a vintage object to fragment and then suspended the parts in the air by fishing lines, creating rhythms that are reminiscent of smoke patterns. In this case, I have included the recall process. Therefore, the memory is fragmented and reassembled again in a new memory with modifications and with parts that do not fit correctly.

Lomopaintings

Lomopaintings

Lomopaintings

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Lomopaintings

Paul Weiner:

Do your Lomopaintings deal with the same idea as Encoding, as far as memory goes?

Pablo Mercado:
The Lomopaintings series was the beginning of my current line of work. In those works, there are models abstracted in time and space. They were like empty presences with the idea of a loss of faith in the present or the future, and the shelter in the past are two of the bases of these paintings. From these paintings, I came to be interested in the topic of memory. I try to talk about what means to take refuge in the past when our mechanisms to remember are so precarious.

This series of paintings mimics the aesthetic of lomography, or obsolete technology, as the new mobile devices, iPhone, smartphones, etc., do. It is just a way to use a melancholy analog medium, painting, considered obsolete.

wallpaper


Please view Pablo Mercado’s artwork online at http://www.pablomercado.es and “like” Critique Collective on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/critiquecollective.

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Jonathan Wright’s Dynamic Painting Exploration

Jonathan “Jono” Wright is a figurative and abstract painter living in Denver, Colorado. He holds a BFA from the Metropolitan State University of Denver and has also studied painting at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, the Boulder Academy of Fine Arts, and the Studio Art Center International in Florence, Italy. Jonathan’s work is available online at http://www.jonowrightart.com.


Paul Weiner:
What are you currently working on?

Jonathan Wright:
Currently, I’m working on a collection of abstract pieces that are 12”x15” for a boutique called Moxie. I’m really excited about this project, as there is a sense of collaboration with fashion, something from which I find a lot of inspiration. Hopefully I’ll be able to strike a balance between true aesthetic exploration and commercial viability.

Paul Weiner:
Since you’ve studied art at various programs in Boulder, Denver, Philadelphia, and abroad, which of these experiences has shaped your artwork the most?

Jonathan Wright:
It’s hard to say which educational experience has shaped my practice the most, as they all play a part in my current approach. For example, my early interest in graffiti and the training that I got as a teenager from Elvie Davis gave me a real appreciation for drawing and having a sense of attention and elegance to line quality. The training I got in Phillly gave me an introduction into how to paint the figure and how to mix colors. What I got from Metro was a sense of approaching art making in an elemental way such as line, volume, composition, focal point and so on.

Having all these different experiences presents me with the challenge of unifying my vision, which is something I’m learning about right now in my practice. I feel like I have a good technical foundation and a decent level of skill, so the question that is in front of me now is what do I really want to paint. What really turns me on? Also, what is commercially viable? So there’s a balance that has yet to be found.

Paul Weiner:
As an emerging artist, would you say that you feel limited or not by the commercial art market? Do you feel that the commercial level of art gets in the way of your attempt to unify your work in the way you would like to?

Jonathan Wright:
I would say that I feel influenced by considering the retail viability of my artistic ideas. Sometimes I make work that I strongly intend on selling, such as still-lifes or landscapes, while other times I make work that is focused on exploring something just for my own enjoyment.

What I’m finding about Denver is that it seems to be a market where you have to ride the razor’s edge of producing work that is decorative enough so people feel comfortable hanging it over their couch while simultaneously being edgy enough that it still has a spark of authentic exploration. That’s a tough road to navigate. Sometimes this dynamic feels limiting, but it can also feel like an interesting challenge. It really depends on where you want to take your career. If you want to be really avant-garde than your retail viability will probably be minimal, so you make your living doing something else. I suppose I’m trying to ride that razor’s edge of selling interesting and beautiful work.

To answer your question about unifying my work I would say that yes, this dynamic does make it hard to find unity. It takes a while to sort through all the educational influences and all the art market influences to come up with something I truly want to focus on that’s also commercially viable. But I feel ok with that. I think that’s what a true artist has to cope with.

8 vision outside of the oasis Niya, 2012, acrylic on paper, 36x48

9 loulan, 2012, acrylic on paper, 36x48

Paul Weiner:
Take us through your process for starting a new painting and developing a concept.

Jonathan Wright:
My process begins with an aesthetic impulse like a color or a form. It can come from nature or other art, such as painting or dance, something I’ve sketched in my book, or maybe something I’ve seen on the street. Oftentimes I find inspiration from fashion or textiles.

One thing I think is interesting is when multiple artists begin putting out similar aesthetics independently, as if they are responding to a similar impulse floating around in the culture that they then explore independently of each other.

But back to me. I begin with an impulse and sketch it out. However, my process and interests are kind of bipolar at this point. Sometimes I like to hone my skills and make highly realistic work, while at other times I’m interested in exploring something non-objective. Thus, depending on what I feel like making, whether it’s realistic or non-objective, my approach is quite different.

If I’m going to paint something realistic, I’ll use Photoshop to collage an image from which to reference. Then I begin the classical process of painting with oils, starting with an underpainting and continuing with opaque layers of paint. If I’m interested in exploring something non-objective I like to use acrylic on paper. With this approach, the medium is really forgiving, and I can edit, destroy, and create as I go along.

In all honesty, I find the non-objective approach more interesting as far as process goes because there is more that is unknown and more to discover. However, I still really like the results I can get when painting realistically. So one of my long-term problems, and remember it’s the problems that keep us going, is to get comfortable enough with my figure painting that I can incorporate the destroying/creating dynamic into that process. Artists like Alex Kanevsky, Kent Williams and a host of others are inspiring to me in this vein.

As far as “concept” goes, that term is something that I find terribly inadequate to describe the nuances of what visual art communicates. Painting especially is incongruous to this notion. The information that develops in a painting during its creation comes from the merging of the physical world of the materials and the subjective world of the artist.  During this process, one has to let go of expectations and conceptual rigidity. Some initial impulse to create is needed, which could be conceptual, but you have to release your expectations and just let go at some point. In my opinion, art is most interesting when it presents something fresh and unknown, which is kind of antithetical to conceptual art.

the lake 5

the lake 4

the lake 3

the lake 4

the lake 5

Paul Weiner:
I like the idea of bringing abstraction and figure together for the sake of dynamism. To that extent, how do you feel about Anselm Kiefer’s way of melding expression and figurative art?

Jonathan Wright:
Although I haven’t studied Anselm Kiefer a lot, I would say that he is fairly post-modern in that he is drawing from representational painting and sculpture in a way that activates their culturally collected meanings. He utilizes that history and then adds some expressionism into the mix. And he is successful with that mixture. It’s been a while since I’ve seen one of his works in person, which I expect is more impactful than on the page or online, but I believe it must deliver quite an impression. But, in speaking to the representational/non-objective dynamic, I think it’s a really vibrant solution to the legacy of Abstract Expressionism, which kind of became too subjective, too limited.

There’s a long history at this point of artists negotiating this terrain, from Willem de Kooning, Diebenkorn, and Neri to contemporary masters like Sangram Majumdar, who totally blows my mind. In the case of Majumdar, he transcends representation by dancing with materiality, illusion, and, most important of all, spontaneity. It’s his ability to include it all, so to speak, that’s so interesting. He harmonizes  the result oriented approach of realism with the subjective spontaneity of Abstract Expressionism.

Another aspect that I see within this dynamic of what we could call form and formlessness is that it speaks to the transience or impermanence of our time. On the one hand, there is a lot of fragmentation going on in the collective psyche and on the other, we see that nothing lasts forever, which is a very Buddhist point of view. It’s a tumultuous time, which is being reflected in this aesthetic device.

6 record keeping 3, 2012, oil on paper, 9x9

7 record keeping 2, 2012, oil on paper, 9x9

Paul Weiner:
What do you find most appealing and most frustrating about the Denver art scene?

Jonathan Wright:
I think Denver has a specific flavor of energy that is unique and interesting. I’m not sure if I can really articulate it, but is has everything to do with geography and history. It’s dry and dirty and a bit outlawish. This is Denver’s strength, but I don’t think it can ever be pinned down.

That being said the art culture here can definitely feel out-of-touch and a bit late on the scene. Denver is kind of catching on to the ideas that originated in the big art centers five years prior. This, in my opinion, gives no one in this town the right to be snobby or exclusive because the people running the show here aren’t all that tapped in anyways. So Denver’s isolation is a strength and a weakness. It’s got an underdog vibe, which is invigorating, but also an air of exclusivity based on insecurity. Take it or leave it, I guess. Overall, it does provide a good emerging art scene, someplace to get your feet wet and perhaps continue to show even after one is more established.

It’s great. It’s home.

Paul Weiner:
You mentioned how Denver is a great place to get your feet wet, which makes plenty of sense. Are you considering making a move to a larger art market like New York or LA at some point?

Jonathan Wright:
At some point, I think it’s inevitable if you want to keep going with your art, as I do, to make that move. Some artists have stayed in Denver and have made a good name for themselves; maybe Phil Bender would be an example. But, yes, I would like to make a move to the West Coast within a year or so. Like New York, there’s a lot of great figurative work going on in LA and other styles of painting as well.

This whole thing has a lot to do with money. There’s simply more money in LA or San Francisco, perhaps also a more sophisticated market, not to mention a more diverse demographic. That equals a more vibrant and commercially viable art scene. I’m excited

to get a few more exhibitions under my belt and to develop a stronger artistic identity before I make the move. That being said, I would never turn my back on the community here in Denver. I’d still love to show here if the opportunity were to arise.


Please view Jonathan Wright’s artwork online at http://www.jonowrightart.com and like Critique Collective on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/critiquecollective.

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Konnie Laumer Exposes the Beauty of Denver in Paint

Konnie Laumer is a self-taught painter from Denver, Colorado exploring figurative and abstract art through acrylic, iridescent, and metallic paint. Her work can be found online at http://www.artbykonnie.com/.

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Paul Weiner:
When did you begin painting, and how did you settle on becoming a painter?

Konnie Laumer:
I’ve been creating art since I was a child. My father was very artistic and saw that I had an interest at an early age, so he started helping me and teaching me how to draw people and the basics of perspective. I picked up on it very easily and was a natural. Then, after I graduated from high school, my aunt gave me lessons in painting. I was hooked. I didn’t start showing and selling until around 2007. I was freelancing as a web and graphic designer and just got fed up with bad paying clients, so I started pursuing my painting at the urging of friends and family. Then I showed as much as I could wherever I could. As soon as I sold a few pieces, I was hooked.

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Paul Weiner:
How do you start your realist paintings? Is it any different from how you begin your abstracts?

Konnie Laumer:
My realistic city scenes are drafted out in pencil on canvas first, measuring every line and calculating with a reduction wheel that converts the size. This is very time consuming and can take days before I put any paint down on the canvas. This way, I don’t have to guess if I’m getting it right and I can focus on the colors, shadows, lines, and technique.

My portraits just take constantly looking at the photo or subject, back and forth while painting, until I see my subject materialize on to the canvas. Sometimes it feels like magic. Before I know it, I’ve captured the subject’s soul, which usually reveals itself through the eyes, be it animal or human.

My abstract work is quite different with each technique. Some are free flowing, paint in the moment. Others are somewhat drafted out, first with a primer blocked out in black and white. This way I get rich, dark areas and bright, light areas. For example, blues look much different laid on black than they do when painted on white. The same goes with all the colors, metallic, and iridescent paints that I use.

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Paul Weiner:
How do you find your subject for a painting? Is this process usually conceptual or intuitive?

Konnie Laumer:
I see a photo that jumps out at me, or a color pallet from something I see that screams “this needs to be put on canvas.” Some of my best abstract pieces were just spontaneous and flowed with the music I was hearing at the time, like a two panel piece I did when I had my studio. Another studio in the gallery was practicing live, funky, jazzy music. That painting just flowed out of me while I listened to the great sounds. So, I guess you could say both.

Paul Weiner:
You mentioned your use of metallic and iridescent paints. How do you feel the qualities of these paints affect your work in ways that traditional oil or acrylic paint might not?

Konnie Laumer:
The reflective nature of metallic and iridescent paint is seen differently in day and at night, depending on the lighting giving a different feel at different times of day.
Using them is sort of a signature style I’ve developed mainly because the reflective value they contribute to a painting is something you just can’t achieve in any other way. I love challenging myself to paint sometimes entirely with metallic paints other than the use of black and white, like in my wildlife paintings. Nearly all of the animals, as well as the surreal cityscapes, were painted with gold, bronze, copper, and array of silver tones. Although more difficult to have scanned for prints, when you’re buying an original from me, you know you have the original because the metallic paint would cost a fortune to get printed and would never translate the same way as the original.

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Paul Weiner:
I noticed that you offer painting instruction together with art parties. Have you found this an effective way to balance the commercial and personal sides of your art?

Konnie Laumer:
I offer instruction because I love sharing the experience of painting and find it very rewarding to show people that we all have an artist hiding inside each of us. Most left-brain thinkers believe they have no talent whatsoever and are pleasantly surprised to find it a very rewarding and freeing experience. The art parties are a great way to get together with your friends, do something new, and show off a hidden talent you never knew you had.

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Paul Weiner:
Have you found the Denver art scene particularly accessible? Do you ever feel limited by living in a relatively small art market?

Konnie Laumer:
Denver has a great art community with some amazing talent floating around in surprising places. I have trouble with accepting the way some galleries charge so much for wall space to show art. They become less picky on what they show, and artists with so-so talent pay the gallery bills while rarely selling anything. I feel the art market is what you make it. If you produce great art, at some point it will sell no matter where you are. The internet has done great things to improve the ability to sell wherever you are. You just have to think outside the box at every turn. It is a never-ending process to market yourself and your talent. You need to be willing to open every door of opportunity when it comes your way.

Paul Weiner:
Pay for space consignment does seem to be unfortunately prevalent here in Denver.

Konnie Laumer:
Unfortunately it is not only Denver, but now is becoming a standard practice with many galleries around the country, which I feel is a shame. As with any industry, sometimes you have to pay to get exposure.


Please view Konnie Laumer’s artwork online at http://www.artbykonnie.com and “like” Critique Collective on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/critiquecollective.

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Simone Rene’s Patterns and Fabric Collage

Simone Rene is a fabric collage artist from Brooklyn, New York who holds a BFA in Illustration from the School of Visual Arts. Her artwork is available online at http://www.simonerene.com/.

11.75"x16", cloth

City Background B5, 11.75″x16″, cloth


Paul Weiner:
When did you decide to begin with the medium of fabric collage?

Simone Rene:
I began working in it about 4-5 years ago. At the time I was doing some mixed-media pieces, paint/graphite/paper/found objects and making clothing, but I couldn’t commit to either because I was torn between my love of fabric and making visuals. I was making a quilt for my nephew, one of my first. It had figures of cute monsters and their toys on it. As I was cutting, positioning, and sewing, the direction I wanted to go in suddenly dawned on me – I know, I know – Duh.

Paul Weiner:
Having studied illustration at the School of Visual Arts, do you see that impacting your style today?

Simone Rene:
I have always loved the figure, and it is pretty central in most of my work. I studied Fashion Illustration in high school and took it at SVA. I think that I am prone to elongating and manipulating the figure to sell the story much the same way fashion illustrators do in order to sell clothing.

The Ancestors A1, 10"x31", cloth

The Ancestors A1, 10″x31″, cloth

Paul Weiner:
The idea of selling a story is interesting, and I can certainly see how fashion is incorporated in your work. So, as far as stories go, do you read your artwork as a narrative?

Simone Rene:
I think of my images as grasping at just a phrase pulled from a whole story, and for me that is where the emotion is.

Paul Weiner:
How do you start one of your fabric collages? It must be tough determining which fabric to use.

Simone Rene:
Usually my concept begins with a thought, words followed by a visual that is accompanied by color. Sometimes I just find a piece of fabric that wants to be something. After I have the concept, I sort through my large fabric collection and go on hunts, both new and used, for just the right fabrics. Once I have the dominant fabric color or pattern, things seem to fall into place. I experiment with combinations and sometimes make variations of the same image. It may take a while, and I may have to return to that image over and over again while I work on other pieces, but it’s ok because art is about exploration.

The Ancestors A5, 12"x31.5", cloth

The Ancestors A5, 12″x31.5″, cloth

Paul Weiner:
Is there a particular color or pattern that has intrigued you?

Simone Rene:
I find myself drawn to black and white patterns, cerulean blues, fuchsia pinks, and flesh tones that are cool – not really into the warm autumn colors.

City Background B3, 15"x27", cloth

City Background B3, 15″x27″, cloth

City Background B1, 17"x21.5", cloth

City Background B1, 17″x21.5″, cloth

Paul Weiner:
You’ve mentioned that your family has resided in Brooklyn since the late 1700s. Could you talk specifically about your “City Background” work and how that relates to your own identity?

Simone Rene:
I grew up embedded in family and surrounded by generations of relatives, both by blood and marriage. We were American, we were New Yorkers, and we were Brooklynites.

When I was little, I don’t ever recall wondering who or what we were. I thought that the diversity of my family was normal. It wasn’t until I began middle school and began to be asked to define myself by ticking off a box that I began to consider “What was I?” note not “Who I was.” It was confusing and disheartening to be asked to define myself and by doing so chance wiping away generations of ancestors that may not be stereotypically present in face or person. It made me a bit of a rebel. I checked all the boxes and when called upon could defend that choice because I knew my family’s stories and history.

I think being generations in the city allowed for the ambiguity that did define my family and I. It allows me to explore aspects of my history with familiarity as well as distance.


Please view Simone Rene’s artwork online at http://www.simonerene.com and “like” Critique Collective on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/critiquecollective.

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Melding Metalwork and Painting: Virginia T. Coleman

Virginia T. Coleman is an artist residing in Denver, Colorado as a member of the Next Art Gallery. She holds an MFA from the Academy of Fine Arts in San Francisco, as well as a Bachelors of environmental design from the University of Colorado at Boulder and a Masters Certificate in welding from the Tulsa Welding School. Her artwork can be found online at http://www.virginiatcoleman.com.

Here is an installation photo from Virginia T Coleman’s recent exhibition, The Lines of a Woman.


Paul Weiner:

Take us through the process of making your work. How do you balance painting with metal?

Virginia T Coleman:

My approach varies depending on the type of work. When it comes to the more conceptual, abstract pieces of my metal art, it begins randomly. I say that because I usually will just be staring at a pile of metal or some scraps I might need to use up, and I begin to arrange them compositionally. This then will lead me to begin to think of a concept that will drive the final arrangement of the elements. The finished product is an exercise in taking the abstract and morphing it into a tangible concept.

If it is a predetermined concept that is larger and more complex in scale, I will begin with a doodle and then a scaled model. The model is usually made out of cardboard to scale so I can think quickly, make changes, add and subtract color before I begin to fabricate it out of metal. Once you begin working with metal, you quickly recognize how you can do something to metal that will take you hours to correct and sometimes correction is not possible.

When I work with metal, I try and use the inherent characteristic of the material before I begin to even consider adding my own personal color. Some pieces in the end require very little added manipulation. others need color to be added. Whichever way the work wanders, I try to make my decisions slowly and methodically.

Willis Polk's Catalyst for Modernist Steel in San Francisco; 2009; stainless steel, wood, oil paint, acrylic paint, and plastic; 25"x28"x11"

Willis Polk’s Catalyst for Modernist Steel in San Francisco; 2009; stainless steel, wood, oil paint, acrylic paint, and plastic; 25″x28″x11″

Linear Deception of Space; 2012; steel; 72"x50"x20"

Linear Deception of Space; 2012; steel; 72″x50″x20″

Paul Weiner:

Out of your metalwork, paintings, and photography, which medium do you find the most challenging?

Virginia T Coleman:

I find challenges out of all the mediums; however, they all fuse into the medium to which I most desire to master, metal. I recognize, however, that I can never master metal because metal is such a dynamic, living entity. Metal gives me challenges everyday through my job as a professional welder to my work as an artist. Metal has become my life challenge.

San Francisco; 2012; steel. acetylene torch, oil paint, and enamel spray; 24″x10″x2.5″

New Orleans; 2012; steel acetylene torch, oil paint, and enamel; 24"x10"x2.5"

New Orleans; 2012; steel acetylene torch, oil paint, and enamel; 24″x10″x2.5″

Paul Weiner:

Could you explain the connection your work seems to have to architecture, both conceptually and materially?

Virginia T Coleman:

Architecture is really the basis for every aspect of my art. I was trained as an architect first, a fine artist second, a sculptor third, and craftsman fourth.

With that being said, I have been enamored by buildings since childhood – the pure power yet delicate embrace a building has on the context of our environments. Buildings are the wallpaper, the tunnels, the dreams, the horror and the magic of our world. Architecture is a platform for taking a concept and morphing it into a tangible, inhabitable object. My architecture training taught me how to draw, to doodle, to think outside the box, to find parallels in seemingly disparate trains of thought, and to dream larger than life.

It seems very logical to me today as a metal sculptor that my material of choice should have always been metal, but I didn’t see that link as clearly as others. It wasn’t till my late twenties that I took my first welding class, and I have never glanced back. I am utterly fascinated by metal and steel structures. The pure power which the material possesses is humbling and its delicate ability to weave together, a technical challenge. It still baffles me the capacity steel has; it can bend across great rivers, cantilever weights into space, or teeter to unimaginable heights. It leaves all of us breathless.

When you start to look at metal or at structures closely, you begin to look at the material metal not as an object to build with, but also as a beautiful canvas both inherently and potentially. You can use the rusted autumn of Corten steel, to the shimmery transparency of stainless, to the purple majestic range captured while heating steel, to all metals abilities to be used as a canvas. Metal is a painting in and of itself. So, as I began my career working with metal, I began to take my years as begin trained a painter as a spring board in coloring metal.

I grew up in a mountain town in Colorado that was in the tidal wave of major development. My playground became construction sites, and I loved it. I would go around touching all the raw materials and seeing how the whole house was being put together almost nail by nail; it was an educational childhood. I knew from a young age that I wanted to learn how to make objects, to be hands on with the actual physical fabrication aspect of design.

Architecture is the thread through all my work.

The Glow of Coit Tower; 2009; wood, oil paint, acrylic paint, and steel; 56″x27″x7″

Paul Weiner:

You’re a member of the co-op at Next Art Gallery here in Denver. How would you describe the vibe of a co-op in comparison with a commercial gallery?

Virginia T Coleman:

I was recommended to it by a fellow artist who was telling me how great the gallery space was, so I decided to give it a try. I have not found a commercial gallery that has really grabbed me yet. I hold strong to my freedom to create unhindered by outside influences. I am not opposed to commercial galleries but have not found them conducive at this juncture.

With the Co-op, I am learning a tremendous amount about how a gallery is run. I can’t say I ever want to run a gallery. I’ll leave that to others, but it is interesting. I am in charge of reviewing potential new members portfolios. It is fun to see what other artist in the Denver area are creating. Every member has his or her own unique voice and we support and encourage all of the members to push their art.


Please view Virginia T Coleman’s artwork online at http://www.virginiatcoleman.com/ and “like” Critique Collective on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/critiquecollective.

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